Recently I had an aha moment. When you read about it, you may think that it’s no big deal. But here it goes. Selina and I are currently in the middle of a cleanse program. The same one we did about 6 months ago. I like the design of this program because the food cravings are kept to a minimum. But while driving past a restaurant we frequently go to, I was distracted by a deeper desire to eat there. Knowing that that was not going to happen, I continued to drive and just let that feeling linger. Without thinking, judging, or getting stuck on any part of the wave sensation, my journey down the rabbit hole arrived with an insight.
The origin and nature of this desire was not metabolic in nature, but instead pychologic.
It was not food I required, I was not starving or even hungry. You see, this cleanse program provides ample macro-nutrients to sustain life and provide satiation. This desire came from an idea of the experience attached to dining there. What I really wanted was entertainment.
Your entertainment enjoyment this evening will be provided for with the coupling of flavorful gustatory sensations, in a comfortable and pleasurable serving environment. What I have just elaborated on is the dining experience. We have moved beyond eating to sustain life, and crossed over into a gestalt process. There is so much depth to this creation that we need to refine it to accommodate our preference. Will it be casual dining or upscale casual dining? And if we really need to feel better about ourselves, go with fine dining. Hard to swallow, but eating food has become a primary vehicle for entertainment.
I’m not judging anyone for eating a meal to provide some entertainment. I frequently do that myself. I’m suggesting a problem is brewing when the seamless merging of the two activities are happening in the subconscious. That is when it becomes behavior without our awareness. At this point we can call it a reflex. That is what was happening to me during my drive by moment. I almost believed I was hungry for food, but in actuality,
I was hungry for a distracting activity.
Our own language propagates this merger. It sounds weird to say let’s dine at McDonald's. We eat at a fast food place. Using place instead of restaurant to designate the location down grades the dining experience to just an ordinary eating activity. We dine at a restaurant. Words matter. Do you wear a watch or sport a timepiece?
This entertainment – dining complex, is empowered by feelings, words, and thought associations. But to crystallize it’s real existence, you need not look any further than a business tax return. The IRS devotes an extensive detailed description of this dining/entertainment relationship. My interpretation of this observation is to say that even the government has proclaimed dining as an entertainment intended activity.
So it must be real.
Before going too far into the esoteric, we need to acknowledge the science behind “the craving.” Why does our body punish us when we try to eat better? Understanding a little biochemistry will help us to not get angry and judge our body when the cravings emerge. A big part of that understanding is the ability to differentiate real hunger verses hormonal hunger. To do that, we have to leave the psycho-logic realm and travel back to our metabolic world.
Real hunger occurs when we really need food. Hormonal hunger does not have to do with real food. It deals with hormones, primarily insulin. When insulin spikes, our body's primary focus becomes sugar metabolism and fat storage. When insulin finally shuttles blood glucose into the cells, it leaves behind a reactive low blood sugar state. Now we need energy fast and we know simple carbohydrates are the fastest. Our behavior, particular our food choices, are now being dictated by our hormones. Anyone that smokes dope knows to not go shopping while stoned.
When an alcoholic is thirsty and says they need a drink. Is it real thirst? No, it’s hormonal thirst, and water will not quench their longing. When you say you’re hungry, is it real hunger? Maybe…but keep in mind that the side effect of hormonal hunger makes it difficult to know if you are currently being affected by it. The hormone imbalance produces a craving that causes us to make bad choices, but for reasons unknown to us. To some extent, the pathway is similar to the craving of a drug addict. A victim of metabolic slavery.
Let’s explore what happens when we begin a detox, a cleanse, or a healthier diet. In every case, your dietary protein to carb ratio (P:C) will improve. Most people have a metabolism skewed toward sugar burning. So reducing quick burning carbohydrates will challenge their metabolic status quo for blood sugar regulation. When you severely restrict carbohydrates for 3 to 4 days, you will deplete glycogen (stored glucose) from your liver and muscles. This depletion will give your chemistry no choice but to reorganize and become a fat burner. In these first few days, there is a high likelihood you will experience cravings for the foods that will restore stability. Until your chemistry re-tools itself for better fat burning, you will experience a greater awareness of hormonal hunger.
You now have the opportunity to use the “craving” as a carrier wave to discover deeper aspects of yourself. Will you bite on those feelings, or let them take you down a rabbit hole? Of course It is easier to seize this opportunity at the level of appetite, prior to it becoming a craving. The urge will not be as strong, giving you a greater chance to stay present. A good reason to not deprive yourself of dense nutritious food. Eventually, you go into ketosis and feel blissful…. for awhile anyway.
If the feeling of bliss is not enough of a reason, then how about this. A healthier diet will also eliminate foods that trigger immune responses. Foods that you are sensitive too, but do not immediately cause an obvious reaction. Eliminating these trigger foods lets the immune system settle down. That is followed by less overall inflammation.
The above description is a fast track approach. But you could also go slower by tweaking your P:C ratio incrementally over time. Or you can cycle your macro-nutrients using carb loads on specific days. There are lots of ways to integrate a healthier diet into your lifestyle. I have combined several of these methods into one document. Just ask me for the Functional Metabolic Guide.
For me, awareness of the underlying process is key. Stage your dietary awareness and implementation so that it does not exceed your metabolic and psychologic flexibility. Referring back to the awareness/flexibility chart from my previous article, here is an example. Your high school reunion is arriving and you need to lose some weight in a short amount of time. You discover a dietary plan guaranteed to produce quick results (increased awareness). The core of this plan is to severely restrict carbohydrates. By taking away the carbohydrate food group, you have effectively reduced 33% of the macro-nutrient pathways used by your biochemistry (decreased metabolic flexibility).
You are now moving into quadrant D. You are forcing your biochemistry to change from a sugar burner to a fat burner in a short period of time. It’s inability to operate as a fat burner will continue to decrease metabolic flexibility over the next few days. During this time of increasing metabolic distortion, you become increasingly aware of cravings and other unpleasant emotional swings (increased awareness). And you move deeper into quadrant D. When your metabolism gets efficient at burning fats (increased metabolic flexibility), you begin moving out of quadrant D. With better metabolic flexibility, cravings are replaced with emotional stability and a sense of clarity (increased awareness). And you move into quadrant A. Happy ending, but not the end.
This quadrant D to A transition could have easily taken a different turn. Let’s say while you were deep into quadrant D, symptoms of detoxification became overwhelming. So much so, that you felt the need to take an Aleve to diminish the headache (judgment of your increased awareness). This pain killer also reduced your awareness. And you are moved into quadrant C. You just subverted your healing process, because you could not handle the increased awareness. But why not? That’s because within this awareness is a truth that was too challenging to be aware of. That’s okay.
“The truth." Dumbledore sighed. "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Symptoms are one way our body talks to us. Within these symptoms are a story. We always have the opportunity to ride the wave until it lands at some insight. If along the way it gets too scary, modern medicine provides us many remedies to abort the journey. A truth about ourselves that we can use to move toward wholeness. An aggressive dietary change can churn up too much information, too quick, for many people. Understanding the process of wellness, will provide a context to apply the content. It provides greater conscious flexibility.
Just because we feel bad, does not mean we are getting sicker. For example, if you eat tainted food and begin to feel nauseated, your first impulse is to assume you are getting sick. But you are already sick; the poison has been there for some time, and you are just now becoming aware of it. It is your interpretation of the physical symptoms that leads you to proclaim yourself sick. But your body is already in the process of making you well again. The sooner you discharge the poison, the sooner your healing can begin. We can feel bad and still be moving into a higher state of health. Thankfully, our body is operating way ahead of us.
My aha moment was possible because I was cleansing my body at a rate that did not exceed my ability to stay aware of the process. That allowed me to create value with the unpleasantries.
PS. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.